The Catskills then and now, Part II

In last’s week column, I mentioned my three-day weekend at Kutchers Country Club with my wife, Sharon, whom I met at the Concord 44 years ago, and her mother, who gave us the trip as my 75th birthday present. I forgot how long and tedious the ride to the Monticello area was and saw how much the town had changed.

Donald Trump torpedoed casino gambling in the Catskills (as well as Coney Island) by strongly speaking against gambling that threatened his Atlantic City properties: The Taj, Trump Marina and Trump Plaza Casinos. He put out full page ads against casinos in New York and lobbied the state legislature. In the end, The Donald got his way and the Borscht Belt died … as did (almost) Coney Island.

But up there in the Catskills is the one Kosher Resort that still lingers on, the huge Kutchers’ Country Club, complete with an 18-hole golf course, lake, outdoor and indoor pools and every activity you could want.

Unfortunately, the Catskills has lost lots of its glamour thanks to Trump’s conniving, and where it was once the hot spot for young Jews in America looking for a mate, times have changed and the only Jewish population still up there are the Orthodox Jews.

The movie “Dirty Dancing” was set in the fabled vacation area just a couple of hours from Broadway. Summer romances, mambo time, menus with seven kinds of herring, musical and comedic greats getting their start before discerning audiences, bungalows, and big hotels like the Concord, Kutchers’ and Grossingers were features.

Today, looking at the long daily activity list, you see several activities of the social staff and listed is Jackie Horner. I met Jackie at one of her dance classes and spoke to her. I told her, I too was a dance instructor who also taught at Grossingers. She is a pretty petite, charming woman, and the wife of Lou Goldstein of “Simon Says” fame. Both worked scores of years at Grossingers. Jackie was the dance instructor who taught Eleanor Bergstein, decades before she wrote the screenplay of “Dirty Dancing,” Eleanor was the real life “baby” in Dirty Dancing and took lessons from Jackie Horner at Grossingers. The characters of Baby and Johnny were both influenced by Bergstein’s own life. Like Baby Houseman, Bergstein came from a Jewish family who visited Catskills resorts during the 1960s; her father was a doctor; and she was nicknamed “Baby” until she was 22-years-old.

Like Johnny Castle, immortalizedby Patrick Swayze, Bergstein was a skilled “dirty dancer” who learned at house parties and later became an Arthur Murray instructor.

Another one of Kutchers’ social staff member who taught line dancing, folk dancing, aerobics and ballroom dancing was a retired District 21 teacher, Larry Strikler. So for me it was like old-home week, as many names popped up from our pasts whom we all knew. Lots of memories, lots of good times.

However, the weekend vacation was ruined thanks to the five-and-a-half-hour trip back to Brooklyn. No matter how hard I tried using my GPS, I couldn’t get past the Lincoln Tunnel.

Not wanting to go into the city during rush hour, I tried time and time again to go via Staten Island. And we still would have been stuck there had it not been for a nice Jersey police officer who couldn’t actually give us the complicated directions and chose to lead us to theNew Jersey Turnpike.

Would I go back to the Catskills? I don’t think so! Not after that hassle of traveling. If I want good Kosher food I’ll go to Jay and Lloyds Old Fashioned Deli on Avenue U.

Screech at you next week!

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